The Lethal Presidency?

President Barack Obama speaks to members of the U.S. Coast Guard.

by, Caryn Freeman

An article By Tom Junod to be published in the August issue of Esquire magazine delves deep into the heart of the Obama Administrations use of predator drones and their policies surrounding the “War on Terror.” What has come to now be known as the Administrations “kill list” raises questions about the United States policy of targeted killing of Al Qaeda operatives. Junod asserts the over two thousand people who have been killed by predator drones since Obama took office have made the Obama presidency the most lethal of all presidencies. The body count certainly isn’t has high as wars past but the article contends that the overall cost of these policies may far exceed the residual cost of Americas wars past.

The centerpiece of the articles is the killing of two American’s, Anwar al-Awlaki, a known enemy combatant who at one time was working as a chaplain at George Washington University. Awlaki publically condemned the 9/11 attacks but later the FBI would discover that one of the 9/11 hijackers had a relationship with Awlaki and  had followed him from California to Virginia. In the following years Awlaki would emerge as a threat to the United States.  He would later develop ties Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man who in 2009 boarded Northwest flight 253 headed for the U.S. with a bomb made by an Al Qaeda bomb maker sewn into his underwear and Army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Hasan, who shot forty-three Americans at Fort Hood, killing thirteen. 

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Anwar’s sixteen year-old-son,  also a American citizen on the other hand had  no reported or disclosed ties to terrorism. He would die by drone attack, as his father did on October 14, 2011 in Yemen along with six or seven other young men and his seventeen-year-old cousin.
Issues of due process and  illegal detainments rose from the increasing number of combatants held at Guantanamo Bay. After years of detainment six hundred combatants would  be released from Guantanamo and would never be charged. 

The Obama administration in a difficult position, managing three inherited wars had to develop new tactics. New technology of predator drones seemed to be a failsafe answer to combating global terrorism. No costly wars, and targeted killing would reduce civilian casualties. This new technology gave way to a war that is waged by targeting enemies one by one but in its inception brings the U.S dangerously close to what some would simply call assassination. 

Although the article is more than fair in painting a picture of an Administration that is keenly aware of the sensitive nature of these killings and that this new technology presents a new way of thinking about war. Junod closes with an almost cryptic question for President Obama and his Administration:

What if the next Lethal President is not as good and as honorable as you? What if he is actually cruel or bloodthirsty?

Read the full Esquire article here.